Originally published in 1857 by Arthur Bells Nicholls
My edition: The Kindle edition! There’s not a pretty paperback edition, unfortunately.
WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually bought one of those cheap little Wordsworth paperbacks a really long time ago as I liked the sound of it, but I was too intimidated by reading a Brontë so I gave it away again.
WHY I Chose to Read It
I’m aiming to finish the rest of the Brontës’ novels this year and this is one of the three I have left. And the shortest of them!
WHAT Makes It a Classic
It’s by Charlotte Brontë! It was her first novel, but wasn’t accepted for publication and didn’t make it onto shelves until after Charlotte had died. It was inspired by Charlotte’s time being a governess in Brussels when she fell in love with the master of the house.
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I’m going to be honest here: I didn’t like it. The only reason I carried on with The Professor was my determination to read all of the books by the Brontë sisters.
This novel is just kinda boring. So very little happens and the characters have nothing to hold onto. I don’t even think anything really happened in the entire first half of the novel other than William suffering under his tyrannical brother and moving to Brussels. And even then he just spent a lot of time recounting (largely uninteresting) conversations with the teachers he works with. And all in French! I know it was standard that those who would be reading novels in the 1800s would know French as well, but come on. I spent far too much time using the really terrible Kindle translator and it didn’t help with the reading experience.
There was nothing about him, M. Pelet, Mademoiselle Reuter or Frances that had anything to grip onto, to like or develop affection for. There was no drama or miscommunication, it was just there. Before I read The Professor I was surprised that it was a forgotten Bronte, and a forgotten classic, but now I get it. I’m not usually this negative about the books I review, but I can't think of anything I liked or even admired in this novel.
I have read that lots of themes that Charlotte employs in The Professor are improved and expanded on in Vilette, her final novel. That, I've heard is wonderful. I love this quote from George Eliot:
“I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading ‘Vilette’”
I still have hope that I’ll eventually love something by Charlotte Bronte and my money is on Vilette. Though I have heard that Shirley puts the main focus on female friendship which is a rare occurrence in nineteenth-century literature. I have hope.
WILL It Stay a Classic
Though I doubt it’ll ever be as acclaimed as Jane Eyre, or even Villette, it’s still a Charlotte Brontë novel, so yes, I think it will.
WHO I’d Recommend it To
- Those dedicated to Charlotte Brontë.
- Those determined to read all of the Brontës’ bibliography.